Metro Weekly

Editor’s Pick: ‘Host and Guest’ at Synetic Theater

Synetic presents a second revival of the thrilling show in honor of the company's 20th anniversary, with updated sets and costumes.

Synetic Theater: Host and Guest -- Photo: Johnny Shryock
Synetic Theater: Host and Guest — Photo: Johnny Shryock

In 2002, two immigrants and recent refugees from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia introduced Washingtonians to what became known as a signature style of physical theater.

Upon launching Synetic Theater, Paata Tsikurishvili and his wife, Irina, scored major acclaim with their version of Hamlet, the first in a notable series of “wordless Shakespeare” adaptations that ended up scooping up three Helen Hayes Awards, including Outstanding Resident Play.

All the hubbub and Helen Hayes Awards accorded to Hamlet came at the expense of Host and Guest, the second show Synetic produced.

It also garnered multiple Helen Hayes Awards (all of them lost to Hamlet), when this dazzling adaptation of a classic narrative poem from Georgia was offered as an artistic response to the cultural upheaval in the wake of 9/11.

In 2008, Synetic revived the timely tale of war, strife, the beliefs that tear us apart, and the humanity that brings us together in response to Russia’s re-invasion of Georgia.

Based on a 19th-century work by Georgian poet Vazha Pshavela, Host and Guest tells the story of a family who takes in a lost stranger, only to discover he is from an enemy clan. They valiantly attempt to save him when their village seeks vengeance.

Synetic Theater: Host and Guest -- Photo: Johnny Shryock
Synetic Theater: Host and Guest — Photo: Johnny Shryock

Now comes a second revival in honor of Synetic’s 20th anniversary, staged with updated sets, costumes, production design, and a cast that includes Romanian-born, Los Angeles-based actor Dan Istrate as family patriarch Joqola and Irinia Tsikurishvili reprising her role as Joqala’s wife, Agaza. Georgian-born Iraki Kavsadze assumes the role of the visiting stranger, Musa, originated by his late father.

“In 2022, I feel déjá vu with the war in Ukraine, and the ‘Red State, Blue State’ divides here in the U.S.,” says director Paata Tsikurishvili. “I feel like I am traveling in time and watching history repeat itself. Without even uttering a word, Host and Guest says a lot. It’s teaching us a lot about the world and about finding unity and common ground within a divided society.”

Through Oct. 2 at Synetic Theater, 1800 South Bell St., in Arlington, Va. Tickets are $25 to $65. Visit www.synetictheater.org.

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